Sometimes a certain dish calls out to you, maybe prompted by a picture, a season, a memory, a craving, a passing aroma. In paging through the recipes in this book one thing I really wanted to make was a barbecued beef sandwich that would taste like one from this place. (True to its old-school quirkiness, it appears to have no functioning web site and yet its Facebook page links you to russellsbarbeque.com which is NOT a real website at all). My first memory of eating at a restaurant is here and it’s about as evocative a place as I know. Even the sign makes me hungry and nostalgic. And don’t get me started on the smell. I think everyone has a place like this living deep in their memory: a place as far from fancy as it gets, where the food comes on paper plates and the tables have oilcloth covers. And yet for kids, to go there was a treat on par with no less than KiddieLand (the promise of which could make me, literally, do anything as a child) or maybe even Dispensa’s Castle of Toys and grownups probably didn’t mind a night out that didn’t break the bank. And it hasn’t changed AT ALL. In fact when I was there not long ago I swear there were women wearing housecoats and Dippity-Doo. True story.
Of all the recipes in this book for large-scale meat and pork grilling projects, this one promised to get me closest to my personal madeleine.
As you might expect, transforming a dense and formidable 5-6 lb. cut of meat into a luscious, spice-infused, ethereal, falling-apart beef experience, it’s gonna take a while. Two hours on the grill, then 2-3 in the oven. [Here’s a funny thing about blogging: when you are re-typing a recipe into a blog post you will often notice things you completely overlooked when cooking the dish. In this case it’s an additional 1 hour of resting time in the oven after the 2-3 hours of cooking. Huh.] Not a spontaneous dish but of course perfect to make ahead. (Once again I must point out that Cook’s has the oddest quirk about almost NEVER giving you make-ahead instructions. I don’t know why but this is yet another dish that practically begs for it and there is not one word of guidance. So I will tell you: cook either through the grilling part and finish in the oven the day of, or do both and refrigerate the meat and the sauce separately until about 30 minutes prior to serving. Then wrap the meat in foil and place in a 325-degree oven for about 25 minutes.)
The sauce was delicious but thin, which meant it didn’t cling to the meat the way I felt it was obligated to and that I desperately wanted it to. I did a little research on KC-style BBQ sauce and it does seem like it’s supposed to be thicker so I made have erred somewhere. Next time I might cook the sauce down a bit after I pour it off the cooked brisket.
But it smelled FANTASTIC and was absolutely delicious and deeply satisfying. Because it serves 8-10 I needed an occasion to serve it so I used the trifecta of birthdays that is my mother, daughter, and our dear friend Rita.
Happy birthday to these three demented unicorns!